Dealing with the ways COVID-19 is changing divorce proceedings


Ending a marriage is a challenge at any time, but the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting hardships are forcing spouses and their lawyers to reassess and readjust their approaches to divorce. Job losses, trial postponements or other unexpected obstacles may arise. Though you may need to revise your original plan, there are steps you can take to achieve your objectives. Patience, flexibility and skillful legal guidance will serve you well during this uniquely overwhelming crisis.

Seeking closure when courts won’t open

If your divorce is headed to trial, you’ve likely been through rounds of settlement discussions and perhaps mediation as well. But with most in-person family court proceedings on hold, divorcing couples have been unable to finalize the dissolution of their marriages. Furthermore, once judges start hearing cases, backlogs could lead to delays of several months. Regardless of your case’s history, renewing settlement talks or engaging in mediation through online video conferencing might be worthwhile given the uncertainty about when your litigation will resume.

Addressing custody and visitation matters during an uncertain time

Even when parents have chosen to live apart, it is important that they give their children a sense of stability. This may seem difficult when parents are not even sure if the next school year will start on time. While parents are still uncertain about vacation plans, the availability of child care and other scheduling issues, flexibility will be required. Depending on your circumstances, you may wish to establish a temporary parenting plan during the pandemic period to address matters such as these:

  • Alternative visitation arrangements can be used if health fears or travel restrictions prevent certain interactions with parents or members of a child’s extended family. For example, you may wish to schedule Zoom meetings with grandparents.
  • Work-related adjustments might be necessary depending on each parent’s ability to work from home. Young children home from school might have to change their primary residence temporarily if the parent with primary physical custody must work outside the home while the other parent can work remotely.
  • Makeup visits can account for time that a noncustodial parent missed with his or her child due to COVID-19.

Safeguarding the well-being of sons and daughters should always be a top priority during a divorce, especially when children are facing so many other changes in their daily lives.

Adjusting to sudden changes in financial circumstances

When your divorce started, you might have had a strong grasp on the value of assets within the marital estate and the financial prospects of you and your spouse. With nearly 40 million people filing for unemployment, your initial goals for property division and spousal support may no longer be feasible. You and your lawyer might find it worthwhile to consult an accountant or financial adviser to help you determine if it’s necessary to revamp your objectives and strategy.

Even if you cannot identify a major impact that COVID-19 has had on your divorce, you may wish to consult with your attorney to make contingency plans in case a health scare or financial crisis affects you or your spouse. 

Additional readings:
How to create a parenting plan